Senior School History Teacher Michael-Ann Cerniglia

Years at the Academy: 11

Degrees: B.A., Clemson University; M.Ed., Clemson University

What motivated you to become a teacher?

I became a teacher because I never wanted to leave school. I was fortunate to have wonderful, inspiring, passionate teachers at almost every step of my education and their enthusiasm was contagious. From Ms. Deming, my first and second grade teacher who hung our projects on every conceivable space of her classroom, to Ms. Fotino, my ninth grade English teacher who failed my first (and second) essay in high school, I was always encouraged to take pride in my work and try, try again.

What are your favorite moments with a student?

My favorite moments with students are when they get excited about their learning and they start to formulate their own ideas. I love when they make connections between units, thoughtfully defend their own position, and design unique ways to communicate what they've learned. Harder to talk about, but possibly more important, are the moments of failure. When I can have honest conversations with my students about the things that don’t work—whether it’s a lesson they found boring or a project they didn’t plan well—it is rewarding because we experience learning together.

How do you inspire students to enjoy learning?

I try to make history relevant, because it is. And I try to create the same contagious enthusiasm I experienced as a student. In addition to the nuts and bolts, students need opportunities to engage with material using action-oriented critical thinking. I try to use role play, simulations, discussion, web-based projects, online global classroom partnerships, and social media to engender investment in global issues and create authenticity. I also incorporate non-fiction into history, to bring the voices of people of the world into the global classroom, which adds perspective and depth.   

How do you keep current with the subject areas you cover?

I keep up on current events, read global literature, attend conferences, participate in professional organizations, exchange ideas with an online international network of educators, and travel.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

My husband, David, I have two daughters, Emerson and Auden and we try to make the most of time together as a family. We have exhausted Pittsburgh’s museums and parks; we also like to spend relaxed time at home with art and cooking projects or a movie. On my own, I enjoy playing with technology, writing, and learning about the world through literature, film, and travel.

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Sewickley Academy is a nationally recognized Pittsburgh private school enrolling students in Pre-K through Grade 12 on a single campus.